SUNDERLAND misfit Ji Dong-won has rejoined German side Augsburg on a permanent deal.
The 22-year-old has barely featured for the Black Cats since joining from Chunnam Dragons in a £2m move in June 2011 and it is no surprise that he has moved on in the current window - he is out of contract this summer and would have been able to leave for minimal compensation to the club otherwise.
The only real surprise is that he was sold not sold last summer when Borussia Dortmund made a £5m bid for the striker, only to be told that Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Cannio saw him as an important part of his plans this season.
Ji has managed just six starts in his two-and-a-half years at the club, scoring two goals, and head coach Gus Poyet admitted recently he had been at a loss to see how the South Korean would fit into his plans.
But his stock is much higher in Germany after a successful loan spell at Augsburg hen he helped the club escape relegation over the course of 17 games – seven of which were won; three drawn.
Borussia made an inquiry about Ji’s situation at the start of this month but Augsburg moved in quickly with a firm and acceptable offer and have taken over the player’s contract until the end of the season where they hope he will pen a new deal with them – although Dortmund would be free in the summer to come in for him again.
Augsburg and Borussia would both have preferred to sign Ji when he was a free agent in the summer but Augsburg have decided it is worth investing in him now to get him on board and look to convince him his future lies in Bavaria.
The move means that Sunderland have at least recouped some of their initial transfer fee as well as getting a wage of the bill to leave head coach Gus Poyet a little more latitude in the transfer market.
It also ends the unfortunate stay of a promising, young South Korean international who proved to be a flop on Wearside – the one shining exception being the day he scored the match-winner against Manchester City on New Year’s Day 2012.
Ji, who has flown out to Germany, said: “I wanted to change clubs in the winter to get more match practice and improve my chances with South Korea for the World Cup in Brazil.
“I had a great time at Augsburg last season so I’m happy to go there again.”
Augsburg’s sporting director Stefan Reuter said: “We were given the opportunity to take Ji for the rest of the season under contract and we have done.
“He had a successful time at Augsburg and he knows the team, the coaching staff and the environment, so for him there is no settling-in time.
“It’s nice that he will wear the Augsburg shirt again.
“We hope he can build on his performances from last season. “